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In Pal. all grain was grown during the winter. It was planted soon after the beginning of the rainy season in October. After the rainy season in March and April, the barley began to ripen and the wheat followed from a week to a month or more later, depending upon the altitude. About the first week in June the reaping began and the whole family, including the children, participated. Reaping was done with a hand sickle. The grain was then threshed on a bare, flat circular stretch of ground by having an ox or some other animal drag a threshing sledge round and round the floor. The threshed grain was then winnowed by tossing it into the air with a shovel to let the wind blow away the chaff. After that the grain was cleaned with a sieve and stored in jars, to be ground into flower with a handmill whenever there was need for bread.

Normally, the bran was not removed from the meal; when it was, it was called “fine flour.” Newly ripened grain was eaten either fresh (Deut 23:25; Matt 12:1) or roasted and eaten as grits (Lev 2:14, 16). Rye and oats are not mentioned in the Bible, although oats were raised in Pal. The following kinds of grain are mentioned in Scripture:


(חִטָּה, H2636). This was the most esteemed grain and was grown wherever the climate made it possible. The best wheat was grown in the fertile valleys of Jezreel, Samaria, and Galilee, and in the Hauron in Trans-Jordan, which in Rom. times was one of the great granaries of the empire.


(שְׂעֹרָה, H8555). This was the next most common grain of Israel. It was less expensive to grow than wheat because it could be raised on poorer soil, and it also had a shorter growing season. The ordinary food of the poor was barley bread (Judg 7:13; Ezek 4:9; John 6:9). Barley was also used to feed horses and cattle (1 Kings 4:28).


(כֻּסֶּ֫מֶת, H4081). This was a hard-grained variety of wheat of poor quality. It was grown in Egypt (Exod 9:32) and in Pal. (Isa 28:25). Sometimes it was mixed with regular wheat to make bread (Ezek 4:9).


(דֹּ֫חַן, H1893). This grain was fed to poultry, but was also eaten by man. Ezekiel was commanded to use it as an ingredient of the bread he was ordered to prepare (Ezek 4:9). It is possible that the דֹּ֫חַן, H1893, includes other allied species of cereals, esp. Sorghum vulgare, a taller grass much cultivated in India and SW Asia.

In the NT various aspects of grain farming were used as illustrations by Jesus—the parables of the sower (Matt 13:3-23; Mark 4:3-20), the wheat and the weeds (Matt 13:24-30), the seed growing secretly (Mark 4:26-29), the rich man and his barns (Luke 12:16-21), and the metaphor of the grain of wheat buried in the ground to produce fruit (John 12:24); and by Paul, who also used the image of the buried grain of wheat, as a symbol of the resurrection of the body (1 Cor 15:37).

Grain stored in jars has been found in a large number of cities excavated by archeologists. Garstang, for example, found jars filled with wheat, barley, millet, and oats in the burned debris of Jericho; and it has been suggested that the full jars are evidence that the city was destroyed after the harvest had been gathered.


M. S. and J. L. Miller, Encyclopedia of Bible Life (1944), 1-24; D. Baly, The Geography of the Bible (1957); R. Bridges and L. A. Weigle, The Bible Word Book (1960), 87; G. E. Wright, Biblical Archaeology (1962), 79.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)


See Agriculture; Garner.

See also

  • Plants